Presentation Type

Presentation

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Tobin Miller Shearer

Faculty Mentor’s Department

African American Studies

Abstract

In 1968 in Mexico City, John Carlos and Tommie Smith became the subjects of a photograph that would become synonymous with Black Power the world over. Both athletes would be suspended from the US track and field team, and both would be ordered to leave the Olympic stadium—all for removing their shoes, unzipping their jackets, and raising a fist.

Before and since the 1968 Olympics, athletes of color have chosen to utilize the venue of major sporting events to voice their feelings on race relations, institutional racism, and systemic violence. But why do protests in athletic contexts garner the reaction they do? What goes into the orchestration of an athletic protest? And most importantly, have the choices made by John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and their ilk brought about any change in society’s conversations about race?

My research has centered on these telling questions. With assistance from Harry Edwards, who was a key orchestrator of both the 1968 Olympic protest and Colin Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem at NFL games beginning in 2016, I explore the impact athletes have had on sports and society at large, the repercussions they face and risks they run in speaking as they do, and the cultural and social legacy of the black athlete’s decision to protest.

I conducted the majority of my research through academic and journalistic means, exploring the nuances in putting together a protest, variations in public sentiment and reaction, and personal experience of the public and private actors involved. Hopefully this project can contextualize and quantify the changes that athletes like these have wrought, and give the basis for a prediction of what’s to come.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 27th, 10:20 AM Apr 27th, 10:40 AM

Creating the Fourth Wave: The Evolution and Impact of the Black Athlete Protest

UC 331

In 1968 in Mexico City, John Carlos and Tommie Smith became the subjects of a photograph that would become synonymous with Black Power the world over. Both athletes would be suspended from the US track and field team, and both would be ordered to leave the Olympic stadium—all for removing their shoes, unzipping their jackets, and raising a fist.

Before and since the 1968 Olympics, athletes of color have chosen to utilize the venue of major sporting events to voice their feelings on race relations, institutional racism, and systemic violence. But why do protests in athletic contexts garner the reaction they do? What goes into the orchestration of an athletic protest? And most importantly, have the choices made by John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and their ilk brought about any change in society’s conversations about race?

My research has centered on these telling questions. With assistance from Harry Edwards, who was a key orchestrator of both the 1968 Olympic protest and Colin Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem at NFL games beginning in 2016, I explore the impact athletes have had on sports and society at large, the repercussions they face and risks they run in speaking as they do, and the cultural and social legacy of the black athlete’s decision to protest.

I conducted the majority of my research through academic and journalistic means, exploring the nuances in putting together a protest, variations in public sentiment and reaction, and personal experience of the public and private actors involved. Hopefully this project can contextualize and quantify the changes that athletes like these have wrought, and give the basis for a prediction of what’s to come.